“Of what does spring season remind you?” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Mar. 18-24, 2015; page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of March 18-24, 2015


What the beginning of spring reminds us of depends, in part, upon the associations we have made throughout the years based on our philosophical orientation, personal memories, and cultural traditions. For an astrologer like me, for instance, I associate the first day of spring this year, March 20, 2015, at 3:45 pm PDT, with “International Astrology Day,” or the start of the astrological New Year, when the Sun enters zero degrees Aries in the tropical zodiac. This year, March 20 brings the spring equinox, a new moon, and a total solar eclipse. Plenty of heavenly happenings for every cosmic enthusiast!

For a master gardener like my mother, spring’s presence begins to be felt when her plum, apple, and cherry blossoms burst into brilliant flower. Complying with the drought regulations in place these days in Northern California, my Mom does not use a garden hose to water her valued trees and plants. What she does is to save the water from washing dishes and clothes into pails. Then she uses the old-fashioned “tabo” (dipper) to scoop the water from the pails to nourish her garden. She would gladly tell anyone who asks, that contrary to common belief, even water already grayed with soap from the washer will not harm plants. As for the water from washing the dishes, the rice and food morsels in it either serve as fertilizer or food for the birds.

For my father, who loves to drive to quaint serendipitous locales with my mother, spring reminds him of so many road trips they have taken as a couple who have been married for almost 46 years now. They admit that sometimes they like being “lost” on the way to their real destination because that’s what makes them discover new cities and friendly people. The city of Jenner, Butano State Park in Pescadero, Half Moon Bay, and classic San Francisco come to mind. Spring also means “spring cleaning” to my very neat Virgo dad, although every weekend of the 52 weeks of the year is like spring cleaning to him. In fact, on weekends he never fails to vacuum the whole house and to clean all the nooks and crannies that “generalists” like me and my mother miss. Spring, for my Dad, is also his time to learn new songs – church songs since he is a cantor at All Saints’ Church in Hayward, and secular ones to add to his already extensive repertoire of English and Tagalog songs, not to mention songs in several Filipino dialects. He sings as well as plays the guitar. I remember my mother telling me that when she and my Dad were still neighbors in apartments that faced each other in Zurbaran (now Fugoso St. in Sta. Cruz, Manila), my Mom became secretly impressed when she overheard him singing “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles, accompanied with his guitar. She remembers telling herself, “Ah, hindi lang naman pala ito pretty boy. Malalim din.” (“Ah, he’s not just a pretty boy after all. He also has depth.”)

Of course, in the home country, the months of March to May are ones of blistering heat, driving Filipinos to swimming pools and beaches across the Philippines’ 7,107 islands. When I was in high school, summer meant time to read pocket books, secretly check out my crush next door, and exchange letters written in longhand with my best friend Ellen Gerance (now Bauto), sent by post complete with stamps. Somewhere during summer is the observance of the Lenten season. During Holy Week itself, I remember our Guadalupe BLISS community organizing a “pabasa” (sponsored reading) of the book on the passion and death of Jesus and Bible verses. The host family offered food and drinks while we teenagers and some “manangs” (elderly women) sang the five-line stanzas in a prescribed melody which we varied from page to page of the book of verses. This chanting could go on for 24 hours straight, so we took turns until the whole book is finished. What can I say? Life went along at a much sedate and simple pace back then. Now going back to spring season here in the good ol’ US of A. Against all odds, flowers are budding, crops are being harvested, and we are nourished by the bounty of the earth. How truly blessed we are to live in a land of plenty! “America the Beautiful,” anyone?

Back in the Philippines, did you know that there is such a Filipina who was named a National Scientist in 1997 due to her work in plant genetics? Dolores A. Ramirez, Ph.D., born Sept. 20, 1931 in Calamba, Laguna, obtained a BS in Agriculture (Major in Plant Breeding, minors in Botany and Agricultural Chemistry) from the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture in 1956. In 1958, she received her MS (Major in Cytogenetics, minor in Botany) from the University of Minnesota. Finally, she obtained her PhD (Major in Biochemical Genetics, minors in Plant Physiology and Plant Pathology), from Purdue University (Lafayette, Indiana) in 1963. Dr. Ramirez held important positions in both international and Philippine agricultural and faculty organizations, as well as honor societies. She is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, and she has authored or co-authored numerous books and scientific journal articles.

From the book, “National Scientists of the Philippines (1978-1998),” a publication of the Dept. of Science and Technology-National Academy of Science and Technology (DOST-NAST) Philippines (QC: Anvil Publishing, 2000), here is how Dr. Ramirez’s citation read when she was conferred the title of National Scientist by then President Fidel V. Ramos in 1997:

“Eminent Filipino geneticist, noted for her comprehensive researches on the cytogenetics of various Philippine crops; pioneering work on biochemical genetics, foremost of which are on the genetics of the makapuno mutant coconut, biochemical basis of disease resistance, gene introgression and molecular markers; and for significantly promoting the development of genetics in the Philippines and in many parts of the world where many of her students are zealously guiding it from the traditional school to the realm of molecular genetics. As a science educator, administrator, and policymaker, Dr. Ramirez has been at the forefront of national and international science and technology (S & T) policymaking and decision-making, and in institution-building for science and education.”

There you go – another feisty Filipina for you! You know, I’m really not updated about my alma mater, the Manila Science High School, located along Taft Avenue corner Padre Faura in Manila – but I wonder if the section names are still those of foreign scientists. May I humbly suggest that MaSci consider Filipino National Scientists’ last names as section names and then require the students to do research on the biography and achievements of their national scientist-section name? Just a thought.

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com